Real Pregnancy Talk: The Woman’s Guilt, Part #1

Let’s talk about how it feels to not have undergone hours of intense labour.

If you’ve had a chance to keep up with my blog in the last few days, you’ll know that I recently gave birth to my baby boy, Dorian Lee. Well, here’s the thing…can I really say that I gave birth to him considering that he was born via emergency C-section?

This is something I’m struggling with at the moment and is the subject of today’s post. As I mentioned in my birth story, my experience of bringing Dorian into the world was not at all what I expected and did not go to plan (even though I didn’t even have a concrete birth plan to begin with). I had to consent very quickly to a C-section because my baby’s heart rate was dangerously low. Now, to be honest, I had always joked that I wanted to have a C-section because it would be easier than having to push an entire human out of my unmentionables. But, let’s be real, a C-section is major surgery and isn’t advisable if not completely necessary, and that’s what all of my friends and family kept reminding me. In the end, though, I had no choice but to have a C-section and it wasn’t a particularly easy one at that. 

Even though I am currently still recovering and feel bruised and battered in a lot of places, I do have quite a bit of guilt with regards to my birth experience. When my husband and I were leaving the hospital after my 2 day recovery, we actually ran into a man that we had one of our prenatal classes with. He was holding his adorable newborn and immediately asked me how my labour was. I explained to him that I had an emergency C-section, which he seemed really shocked by, but then he told me that his wife went through a 29 hour labour and my heart fell in my chest. How can I say anything to that when I was merely wheeled into an operating room and got to come out an hour later with a beautiful baby boy, no conscious effort on my part required? I felt embarrassed that I didn’t actually have to do anything physical or challenging to receive this incredible reward, and I almost felt that I somehow shirked my womanly duty or something like that. I didn’t have to push for hours, and that honestly makes it feel even more surreal to me that this sweet boy I’m holding in my arms is mine because it’s almost as if he appeared out of nowhere. 

I know, from speaking with my friends and family and especially my mother, that these feelings are totally unfounded. I had to make an incredibly difficult decision when consenting to my emergency C-section, and I had to fully surrender to my team of doctors and nurses at a moment that was overwhelmingly frightening and confusing. I truly feared for my baby’s health and safety, and for my own as well, and that is no small thing. So why do I feel like this isn’t as valid a birth experience as pushing for 29 hours would have been? Why do I feel that earning my motherhood badge requires going through a very specific type of birth? As I type these questions, I know how crazy it is to think this way and I know that, no matter how it happened, the most important thing is that my baby entered this world healthy and secure. I think that society plants in our head all these notions about what pregnancy and motherhood have to look like and how it should all happen, and that is seriously detrimental and can mess a woman up in ways that are profound and unfortunate. I for one think we need to do away with all expectations surrounding pregnancy, birth and labour, and motherhood, and remember that each person’s individual experience is valid in its own right and as long as it works for mother, child and family, it is absolutely perfect.

So, I’m throwing out my preconceived notions about what labour should be like and continuing to remember that I made a baby, he was with me for 9 months and I cared for him like no one else on this planet ever will, and he is here now for me to love, nurture and adore, regardless of how he got here!

Janille N G

Girl with a Green Heart

Real Pregnancy Talk: My Birth Story: An Unexpected Emergency C-Section

“Even the best laid birth plans can go sideways.” ~ me, a few months ago

Let’s talk about how it feels when your birth story goes completely off the rails.

Remember when I wrote a few Real Pregnancy Talks ago about how even the most thorough and realistic birth plans can sometimes go awry? Welcome to my life!

Let’s begin with an exciting announcement… My son, Dorian Lee, has finally entered the world!!! On Tuesday October 1st, 2019 at 11:58am, he burst onto the scene with hardly any warning, weighing 6lbs 9oz. I was 3 days over 40 weeks at that point, so his arrival was definitely something my husband and I, as well as our family and friends, were very eager for. That being said, when labour got underway, everything happened sooo quickly and my head is still spinning from it all.

On the night of Monday September 30th, after walking all day with my husband on a 10k journey, I started to experience really terrible cramps in my lower back. I had been having some bleeding for a few days prior to this, but after a trip to the hospital’s obstetrical ER, I was told that this was totally normal and simply my body preparing for labour. I was, naturally, on edge about this though, and so when I started having more intense cramps on Monday night, I started to feel like I was moving into more active labour. By early Tuesday morning, after no sleep at all, my husband and I noticed that my cramps, or rather what we now realized were contractions, were lasting about 1 minute and were happening every 3 to 5 minutes. We decided to head straight to the hospital to not risk being too late.

When we got to the hospital and were admitted to triage, they started to monitor my contractions and examined me. I was only dilated to 3cm, and so not very close to the “pushing stage” of labour at all, but they began to see that my baby’s heart rate was dropping slightly every time I had a contraction. The doctors decided to admit me to the birthing unit so that they could continue to monitor the baby and hopefully move me closer to real labour. As I waddled over to my birthing suite, I started to feel a bit more anxious, but overall I just felt excitement that we were finally going to be meeting our son.

When we got into our birthing suite, we were told by our nurse that it would be a good time to consider an epidural. I was all for having one anyway, but the nurse explained that time was of the essence because if my baby’s heart rate continued to drop, I may need to consider a C-section and if I didn’t have an epidural done straight away, I would have no choice but to be put under general anesthetic if a C-section should need to happen. I of course wanted to avoid that, and I really was becoming fatigued by the pain of the frequent contractions, so I decided to have the epidural. Unfortunately, there was a bit of an issue getting the epidural to work properly and I had two separate doctors try to administer it, which was uncomfortable as I was still working through the seemingly non-stop contractions. My husband even fainted when they were trying to get the needle in…his first time ever fainting in his life, probably because of the insane amount of stress we were under and watching me undergo a tricky procedure multiple times until it worked. It eventually did work, though, and I felt blissfully calm and at ease as I settled back into my bed and realized that, yes, I was still having intense contractions but I couldn’t feel a single thing. This was the most peaceful part of my labour, when I felt the most confident and excited, and it’s also when my husband called our parents to tell them to come to the hospital. I was still only dilated to 3cm so we knew (or, I should say, we thought) we still had hours left of waiting for our baby boy.

Our parents arrived and came into the birthing suite to say Hello to us, and my mom stayed with my husband and I because I always knew I wanted her in the room to provide me with extra love and support. It was at this point that things started to happen really rapidly and the whirlwind began. The doctors were still noticing that my baby’s heart rate kept dipping whenever I had a contraction, so they thought it best to move labour along a bit faster if possible. They started to give me oxytocin to increase the frequency of the contractions and help me to dilate faster, and they quickly saw that I was dilated to 6cm within an hour of being on oxytocin. However, the doctors and nurses became very alarmed when they noticed that my baby’s heart rate was dipping even lower with each more intense contraction, and I remember my main nurse rushing into the room and saying that she was very unhappy with my baby’s heart rate and thought we should stop the oxytocin to give him a break. A resident doctor agreed with her, and so they stopped administering the oxytocin, but they also mentioned to me that I should consider giving consent for a C-section because they were that worried about what was happening to my baby. 

It was at that moment that I had no choice but to fully surrender to the doctors and nurses. This was something I had no problem doing because I have always had complete confidence in my team and the hospital. My husband and I chose early on to go to Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto for our care because we believe it is one of the best hospitals in Canada, if not the world, and so I told the nurse and doctor that I had no birth plan whatsoever other than to follow their advice completely and let them do whatever they felt was appropriate and needed to be done to keep me and, especially, my baby safe. After telling them this, I was given the forms to sign to consent to a C-section and was told that they would continue to monitor the baby’s heart rate but that at least they were ready to perform a C-section if necessary. I settled back into my bed and got ready to wait and see what would happen next. Somehow, the uncertainty didn’t phase me at this point as I had decided to place my trust in the doctors and nurses and let them guide me through the experience.

But then, what I thought for 9 months was going to be a relatively average birth became an emergency. Not 5 minutes after I signed the consent forms for the C-section, about 4 doctors and nurses ran into my birthing suite frantically. I was so confused because I had just been told that we would be monitoring my baby for a little while yet, but apparently his heart rate had dropped so low that they were extremely concerned. I was told that I was going to be taken for an emergency C-section immediately. Although I had maintained my composure up until this moment, I instantly started to cry. I honestly believed that my baby was going to die. I can’t explain why I felt this way, but I just had this ominous foreboding come over me, and I burst into tears, asking the nurse if there was a risk that my baby was already dead. She assured me that everything was and would be fine, but I couldn’t control my fears and I continued crying as they wheeled me into the operating room. My husband trailed behind with one of the sweetest and kindest nurses we had met who helped him get prepared to enter the OR himself. This meant that I was brought into the OR alone, and my nerves started to overwhelm me as the team lifted me onto the operating table. 

Everything was a frenzy in that operating room. I had never had surgery before this (other than having my wisdom teeth removed, which I consider pretty standard) and so I had no idea what to expect, but I definitely thought it wasn’t normal that at least 10 doctors and nurses were running around, rushing to get me prepped and saying things like, “We need to get this baby out now!” I kept asking the anesthesiologist to assure me that I wouldn’t feel anything because I was still weirded out by the epidural not working the first time around, and he administered a few different types of medications, as well as laughing gas, to ensure that I was completely calm. This meant that I was delirious and loopy, though, which only made me more aware of the frantic preparation around me and convinced me further that my baby was in serious danger. I have never been so scared in my entire life, and I remember fighting with everything in me to stay awake, not faint, and maintain control of my sense of self so that I could vigilantly watch out for my baby. After another 30 to 45 minutes of surgery, which involved hearing minute details of the doctors putting my organs back in place and stitching me up, I was free to move to the recovery room and finally hold my baby.

There is nothing better on this Earth than holding the adorable Dorian Lee in my arms, and although my birth experience was not at all what I expected it would be, it is so very true that having your baby with you at the end makes everything worthwhile. I would undergo a hundred more surgeries to have Dorian Lee beside me, and at the end of the day, I know I made the only decision I could to keep Dorian safe and sound. That’s all I need to think about to remind myself that, C-section or natural birth, all that matters is that my baby boy is healthy and here with me. I guess this all just goes to show that, particularly when it comes to children, you can’t always plan ahead or obsessively control every aspect of life…you often need to just go with the flow and let life’s little miracles run their course to beautiful fruition. And, I think we can all agree that Mr. Dorian Lee is pretty beautiful, isn’t he? 😍😍😍

Janille N G

Girl with a Green Heart

Pre-Baby Book Reviews ~ #JNGReads

Happy Hump Day, dear Readers!

I’m back this evening with a whole bunch of book reviews. I have to be honest, my intention was to hold onto these reviews and post them as part of bigger, themed entries with reviews for a few other books I’m hoping to read soon…but then, it hit me all of a sudden that my baby boy could come any day now (read my blog entry about not so patiently waiting for him here) and at that point, I might very well forget about posting these reviews I’ve had in my “back pocket” altogether. I have already posted them on Goodreads – that’s usually the first place I update as soon as I’ve finished a book, so if you’d like to join me over there, I’d love to chat books anytime!

Anyway, without further ado, here are some reviews for a bunch of books I’ve read recently. I very much hope that, even when my baby decides to join us, I’ll be able to continue reading and reviewing whenever I have a spare moment.

Help Me by Marianne Power

I feel very conflicted about Marianne Power’s memoir of sorts about her time spent reading self-help books and attempting to better herself because of them.

On the one hand, I really did like Marianne’s voice. I found her funny, relatable and bubbly. I appreciated her frequent use of exclamation points (every sentence in my own text messages ends in one), and I thought that, despite her discussion of her depression and her quite constant putting down of herself, she came across as positive and optimistic. She seems like the type of person I could easily be friends with because she came across as, overall, very endearing and lovable.

But on the other hand, the discussion of each self-help book was tedious and annoying to me. I’m not really a self-help person myself, and although I’ve spent this year trying to come to terms with my anxiety, I haven’t actually picked up any cliché books like the ones Marianne does. I’m not trying to come across as stuck up or anything, but I do believe there are problems with a lot of self-help books out there, and they are similar to fad diets in the sense that it’s easy to become enamoured with them and jump on the bandwagon, only to go careening off it mere months later. Marianne recognizes that as well, which I really appreciated (otherwise, this book might’ve verged on insufferable), but she also does buy into a lot of the books when she is reading them, and that can be kind of frustrating as a reader who is a bit more…well…cynical and pessimistic, I suppose. I just couldn’t buy into everything Marianne was reading, and it made it hard for me to relate to her in the moments when she was buying into it all. It made me want to tell her, like her friends and family members do, to snap out of it and focus on reality instead, and my inability to do that through the pages of a book was hard for me.

Like I said, though, I continued to be a fan of Marianne from the first page to the last and I did find myself rooting for her. I just don’t know that I found there to be anything profound about this book as it almost read like a diary. It was personal and very raw in points, but it wasn’t a self-help book in itself, and so it didn’t help me on my own journey of understanding my anxiety at all. Not that I really expected it to, but it was certainly a lot more about Marianne’s experiences and life than I expected it to be, although that ended up being the thing I liked best about it, I think.

And, as I mentioned, Marianne does go through a really rough period of depression at one point of the book and she is blatantly and bravely honest about it. I respected that immensely and it was definitely the portion of the book I was able to engage with the most and take the most from. The quotes below are a good sampling of what Marianne talks about in this section, and I found myself re-reading them several times because they seemed to describe my own feelings as if Marianne was inside my head.

“‘I’m just tired,’ I said. Tired. How many times had I said that word when I didn’t know what else to say? When I didn’t know how to say I’m lost, I’m scared, I’m lonely, I feel like I’m losing it…?”

“I have always been prone to getting down. It starts so gradually I don’t notice it. I start waking up in the middle of the night with a feeling of non-specific panic and waking up in the morning with a feeling of dread and anxiety. Bit by bit this grows until it feels like the day – and the world – contains nothing but cliffs for me to fall off.”

“I thought it was normal to feel like the bottom of your world was falling out every day – I thought that was just how people felt. You just had to try harder, keep going, hope that one day it would get better. Also, being diagnosed as depressed was code for being a failure. For not being able to nail this life business.”

Okay, that all sounds really negative and makes it seem like this book is a big downer, but it really isn’t. Despite facing incredible lows, Marianne is able to feel happy a lot of the time and the book does end on an optimistic note. But, it’s also realistic and Marianne is honest about the fact that she might not feel happy every single day and that her whole life hasn’t been magically transformed, and that is alright. Having moments of joy and gratitude are sometimes enough.

Overall, I enjoyed Marianne’s writing style a lot and I would be interested to read her work as a journalist because I think she has a really witty voice. I perhaps didn’t love the subject matter of this book, but I did grow to like Marianne very much, so that made it a successful enough reading experience for me.

❥❥❥ (out of 5) 

The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood

I have never read The Odyssey. 

I am not a particular fan of Margaret Atwood…which, yes, does make me a bad Canadian, thanks for asking. 

But, The Penelopiad I thoroughly enjoyed! I read it entirely in one day. It would’ve been one sitting if I didn’t have obligations to attend to. I highly recommend this one as it might be the best Atwood work I’ve ever read. It was short but felt profound; it had many meaningful messages about what it means to be a woman (overshadowed and overpowered by a pompous but important man) and a wife, but was easy to digest. Overall, a GREAT read!

❥❥❥❥.5 (out of 5)

The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson

I thoroughly enjoyed The Kiss of Deception, despite some obvious problems with it. I have to admit right off the bat that the story is a slow one and very much feels, by the end, like a precursor to bigger things to come in the rest of the series. Other reviewers have mentioned that the plot is very repetitive, and this is certainly true as it outlines main character Lia’s day-to-day life working as a waitress in a small town in minute detail. However, for some reason, I still found the story incredibly enjoyable to read and, when I sat down with it, I found myself turning the pages rapidly. It is true that not very much happened, but it was still quite entertaining and I felt compelled about halfway through it to go to my local bookstore and pick up the other two novels in the series so that I could begin them right after finishing this one. I also grew to really like Lia as a character by the end of the story, and I am curious to see if my interest in her will only grow as I get into the next book, or if my intrigue will wan. 

Overall, although this book wasn’t fabulous per say, it was pleasant to read and I did find myself being drawn in by Pearson’s writing style and her ability to weave together a story. I am very curious to see what comes next in spite of myself.

❥❥❥ (out of 5) 

*Note: I do plan to continue this series and was intending to write a larger review of the entire thing at some point, so that is why this particular review is so short. Hopefully, I will get around to the rest of the series soon!*

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

Real Pregnancy Talk: The Waiting Game

“I wait for him. Each moment that I wait feels like a year, an eternity. Each moment is as slow and transparent as glass. Through each moment I can see infinite moments lined up, waiting.”

~ The Time Traveler’s Wife, Audrey Niffenegger

Could this be the last photo of me as a pregnant woman? When will my baby decide to join us?

I am nearing the end of my journey. I am just over 37 weeks pregnant. This means that the baby in my belly, who has lived there for what feels like forever but has really only been a short piece of the grand scheme of my life, could arrive at any time. It is perfectly safe at this point if that happens, and while I am excited for him to finally be out here with my husband and me, I am also terrified of this moment. When I lie in bed at night, sleep drifting slowly in, I feel my chest clench and my heart race, imagining him lying in his little bassinet beside our bed. Everything is about to change.

So, I am waiting, for this boy that I have never met but who is going to be the most important person in my life. I am constantly assessing every symptom I feel, on red alert for any traces of contractions, any weird sensations that could mark his impending arrival. But, at the same time, I have no idea when he will choose to actually join us. Will it be tomorrow? A week from now? Will he wait until even after his due date? No one can tell me, not even my incredibly qualified doctor. And so, I wait.

I waited a very long time to meet my husband – 22 years to be exact. I had no serious relationship before him, and I very acutely felt before meeting him that I was waiting to find that special someone, that no one before him was quite right. Even that experience, though, feels comparatively insignificant as I sit here waiting to meet my son. This is a child that my husband and I created together, that is completely made up of parts of us, and it is surreal and scary and fascinating to think that, when he does come into the world, it will be entirely because of us. We are responsible for him in so many ways and will be for the rest of our lives.

Is this our final photo as a twosome? We wait, not so patiently, for our son to make his appearance…

I am not a patient person. I think most people who know me would in fact describe me as very impatient. In this case, however, I have no choice but to practice patience and let my son do what he needs to, in his own time. I, personally, pride myself in never being late for anything, so I am hoping he takes after me in this sense and will join us at least by his due date. But again, what influence do I have over this? None whatsoever. So, like one of my favourite characters and a great example of beautiful motherhood, Clare Abshire, I will do the only thing that I can…sit here…waiting.

“Without you I’m workin’ with the rain fallin’ down

Half a party in a one dog town

I need you to chase the blues away

I’m waitin’, waitin’ on a sunny day

Gonna chase the clouds away

Waitin’ on a sunny day”

~ “Waiting on a Sunny Day” by Bruce Springsteen

Janille N G

Girl with a Green (and Very Impatient!) Heart

Real Pregnancy Talk: Clueless

Let’s talk about those people who are utterly clueless about what it means to be pregnant.

WARNING: Angry blog post ahead…

I’ve had a few people (both men and women) say to me since I became pregnant in January that they totally understand and sympathize with what it’s like to be pregnant, even though they’ve never been themselves. I’m here to say to these people once and for all that, No, you don’t.

Pregnancy is not only an extremely emotional and mental journey (as I’ve talked about at length in other “Real Pregnancy Talk” posts), it is also a very physical experience. When it became clear that my anxiety was a lot more severe than expected in my first trimester, my doctors all recommended vehemently to me that I practice going to the gym on a regular basis as it would help my mind to calm down. But, just because I am trying my best to go to the gym as frequently as possible, doesn’t mean that I am feeling peachy keen all the time. There have been significant changes to my physical body since I became pregnant, and now that I am 32 weeks along and nearing the end of my journey, my baby is only getting larger and larger and more, let’s be honest, uncomfortable to carry. This is something that I am confident no person can even come close to understanding unless they have been pregnant themself. I’ve mentioned in previous posts that my body is no longer just my own, and that’s the truth of it – I am sharing my body with another human, and he’s not always that considerate of how I might be feeling. He kicks my ribs and lungs, often taking my breath away; he punches my bladder which, as you can imagine, can have some serious consequences when I’m out in public; and he is apparently hungry constantly because I definitely am.

Moreover, he’s messing with my hormones in ways that are ten times more intense than anything I ever experienced as a woman prior to becoming pregnant (yes, even during that pesky time of the month!). I’ve never had heartburn in my life until I became pregnant, but now it’s a nightly occurrence and has been since the end of my first trimester. I have a weak back to begin with, but the pressure is getting to the point now where a single step can unexpectedly have me cringing and clutching myself in agony. There was the time I almost fainted on the subway (like, literally, I was seeing spots and thought I was going to face plant right in front of the early morning commuters) and then found out from my doctor that my iron level was really low because, naturally, every single thing I consume is being shared with my precious nugget. And, let’s just say it how it is, none of this is very comfortable or enjoyable to go through.

Despite how plainly traumatic being pregnant is on a female’s body, like I said, there are still those people out there who think they know what it’s like to be pregnant without having been. Sure, maybe these people can empathize with what it’s like and try to put themselves in a pregnant woman’s position, but that will only get them so far and I’m sorry, but it’s not at all the same. Until you’ve held a baby inside of you, you don’t know anything, and it’s just naïve and ignorant to pretend that you do.

Now, why would I feel compelled to rant like a dragon about this today? Well, it has to do with something that happened to me on the weekend. I was heading downtown with my mother on the subway, and it was a Saturday evening, so the subway was pretty busy. It wasn’t packed by any means though, and my mom and I entered the train easily and stood right in front of a cluster of five seats. On these seats sat two middle-aged women, two young women, and a middle-aged man. Do you think that any of these five individuals got up to offer me, the only pregnant woman in the vicinity, a seat? Nope, not a single one. I do like to believe that, with my fitness level being what it was before I got pregnant, I actually needed a seat less than some of these people…but that’s not really the point. The point is that it is simply disrespectful and insulting not to at least offer a seat to a pregnant woman (or to a person who clearly needs a seat for any other reason) when on the subway. I didn’t say anything and I urged my mom not to because I didn’t want to cause an altercation, but this got me really fired up. People need to get their heads out of their a$$es sometimes, apparently.

All this to say that, you might think you know how hard it is to be pregnant, but unless you’ve been a pregnant woman at one point in your life, you have no clue. So, if a pregnant woman is standing near you on a crowded subway car or bus, just offer her a damn seat and be a decent human being, because one day you might actually be in her position and you and your sore back are going to be hoping you have good karma when that day arrives. Trust me on this one!

Rant concluded, thank you for attending my Ted Talk. 😉

Janille N G

Girl with a Green Heart

End of July Round-Up ~ #JNGReads

Happy almost-Friday everyone!

A long weekend is coming up here in Toronto, which means lots of time to spend outside, hopefully blazing through a few books I have on loan from the library.

I was originally holding onto the following reviews to post when I had a few more ready because I’ve actually finished another two books in the days since reading these ones. However, those two books are both part of the Beautiful series, and when I saw that I could borrow all but one of the remaining books in the series that I haven’t yet read from my library last night, I decided it would be a better idea to post all of my short reviews of the Beautiful books in one mega-post.

So, for that reason, I’m offering two reviews here of books that I finished at the end of July and enjoyed well enough. If you’re looking for a relatively entertaining chick lit. to take to the beach with you or a fantasy novel to distract you on these hot days, these just might be the ticket!

Star-Crossed by Minnie Darke

I don’t quite know how to feel about Star-Crossed by Minnie Darke. I was originally very intrigued by the novel when I came across it at my local bookstore, and I instantly requested an e-book version of it from my library. The synopsis seemed perfectly sweet and romantic, the ideal summer read, and I felt that I would surely enjoy it because of its allusions to Shakespeare and one of my favourite concepts, Fate. I also am a fan of reading my horoscope, although I don’t do so religiously, and I thought the plot of someone altering horoscopes to send a particular message sounded fun and unique.

However, the novel turned out not to be what I was expecting whatsoever. For one thing, it was written in a much more lofty style than is customary for romance novels of this variety, and while I think that can sometimes be a very good thing and there is no reason why a novel has to bend to the clichés of a specific genre, Darke’s writing was a bit too flowery for my liking (this coming from someone who is notoriously verbose) and the whole book read, in many ways, like a horoscope entry with its mystical language. I also found myself thinking, only about 200 pages into the novel, that it was altogether too long. It lacked a bit of direction in my opinion because, rather than focusing exclusively on the main characters Nick and Justine and building chemistry between them, it flitted around to different minor characters and examined how they were affected by the horoscopes Justine constructed. This, again, was a good idea in theory, but in execution I found it made the story harder to follow, as it seemed to jump around a bit haphazardly and was then wrapped up too quickly and neatly. I do have to say that I thought it was cute how Darke chose to write some sections from the perspective of a dog named Brown Houdini-Malarky, but then, at the same time, I also found this incredibly strange and a bit out of place. I felt the same way about one section written from Heaven, which again seemed to bring in the concept of religion in a way that was unnecessary and didn’t fully align with the focus on astrology.

More than anything, I found it hard to like Star-Crossed because I really didn’t like Justine or Nick. Nick, I was totally indifferent towards because he’s an utterly bland character who doesn’t really have much of a personality at all and seems not to have any agency over his life or any decision-making power. Justine was, however, extremely annoying to me because she did make many decisions throughout the novel, but she always seemed to be making the stupidest ones imaginable. And I don’t just mean altering the horoscopes of the magazine she works for, which is obviously unethical; I mean all of the other decisions she makes, even after she is caught and given another chance not to do anything unprofessional again. She is also a bit full of herself, if you ask me, because she goes around correcting signs and menus that have spelling errors, and she comes across as very pretentious. I just found it really difficult to relate to her and I almost didn’t want her to come out on top at the end of the novel because I didn’t feel she deserved it. She sort of bothered me as a character and is not someone I would ever root for romantically, which is a major problem in this sort of novel, if you ask me.

Overall, I wanted more from Star-Crossed and I found myself slogging through it toward the end, just wanting to be done. It wasn’t terrible, but it isn’t the first book I would recommend if a friend asked me for an entertaining read to take with her to the beach, as there are many other books of this genre that I feel are executed much better.

❥❥❥ (out of 5)

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

I really enjoyed An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir, and will absolutely be reading the next installments in this fantasy series!

This is a fast-paced, engaging and thoroughly entertaining read, that doesn’t feel heavy in any parts. When I had the chance to pick it up, I felt like I raced through the pages rapidly, and the alternating perspective (from Laia’s narrative to Elias’) was very easy and exciting to read. There weren’t any real lulls in the story, and I turned the pages a lot faster than I have when reading other novels in the last little while. That being said, when I was away from the book, I found myself thinking about what had happened in the plot and realizing that not very much had actually occurred. It was almost as if, every time I sat down to read, I got no further into the plot even if I was pages and pages ahead of the last time I read. This could be down to the fact that the plot is quite contained, focusing mainly on the Four Trials to determine the new Emperor and Laia’s spy work and pursuit to set her brother free from prison. Although the text is over 400 pages long, the focus is not very vast, and so it feels like not a lot of progress or movement forward is being made. However, as I said, my reading experience was very enjoyable and I got swept up in the story really easily, so I wasn’t too bothered by the fact that there wasn’t much momentum. What it made me think, ultimately, is that this is a very good first book in a larger series, but wouldn’t work as a standalone because it is mostly concerned with setting the stage for events and intrigues to come.

Overall, I was impressed by An Ember in the Ashes and, like I said, I got through it quickly when I was able to find the time to sit down with it. I was fascinated by pretty much all of the characters, from Izzi to Cook to Helene to the Commandant, and I am very interested to see how the rest of the story unfolds over the course of the additional novels.

❥❥❥❥ (out of 5)

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

Real Pregnancy Talk: Party of Two

Let’s talk about how it really feels to go from being two to being three.

About a month ago, I learned that my favourite musical (and one of my favourite French stories) of all time, The Phantom of the Opera, will be returning to Toronto in January. I immediately called my husband to tell him that we were getting tickets to celebrate our 6-year dating anniversary, which falls in that month. He was completely on board, even though I’ve seen the play about a million times and he’s getting up there as well, and so we took a look at the available seats and made our selection.

It was then that it dawned on us…January 2020…we would need a babysitter to take care of our baby boy if we wanted to go out for a date night at that time. What a surreal and indescribable feeling, to come to the realization that, beginning this Fall, we can no longer think of just the two of us anymore. We will, for the rest of our lives, always have to be thinking for three.

My husband and I aren’t big partygoers and it’s not like we frequent bars and nightclubs in the city all that often, unless there’s a birthday party or event we’re attending. Having said that, we definitely enjoy being out of the house together, exploring new restaurants downtown and especially going to movies and shows. We’re big fans of walking along the Harbourfront, or buzzing around the Eaton Centre or Yorkdale, and we do get restless if we’re sitting at home for too long on a weekend. We enjoy each other’s company, and I’ve often said that some of my happiest moments with my husband have been waiting in line with him for a ride at The Ex, or sitting on an otherwise tedious streetcar journey headed to an outdoor concert at Budweiser Stage. We try to attend Fan Expo and the One of A Kind Christmas Craft Show every year, and make frequent visits to the Distillery District in the cool winter months. We love being out and about, as long as we’re together, holding hands and exchanging smiles.

One of my biggest fears when we found out I was pregnant was that all of this would change. My husband is my absolute best friend in the world, and I’ve been thinking a lot lately, as the countdown is now on to our baby boy’s arrival, about how being parents will change our relationship. We discussed many times before our wedding that if we were deciding to get married, it meant it would be for life, no matter how hard things might get in the future. We’re hopeless romantics in that way, and we realized very early in our relationship that we’d rather be unhappy together than unhappy apart. Hopefully we’re never at that point where we need to struggle through mutual unhappiness, but considering that my pregnancy journey hasn’t been easy and we’ve had our fair share of ups and downs throughout the years, I do feel confident that as long as we maintain our close friendship, we can get through anything. At the same time, though, I don’t want to have to compromise our youth and excitement for life because we have a baby and will soon be in the role of parents. I want us to continue to be exactly who we are to each other, just with the heightened joy of raising our child together.

I’ll admit, the idea of going from being two to being three has made me melancholy for the last few weeks, especially as the summer heats up and we are pulled in so many directions by so many people, attending so many events every single weekend. My emotions have bogged me down for the last few weeks, and I found myself just wanting a bit of peace and quiet with only my husband and I, and when I expressed these feelings to him, my husband completely understood. So, we’ve decided to try to take a step back now that I’m nearing the end of my pregnancy, and take more time for ourselves. I suggested that we make a list of some of the spots in the city we want to visit and things we want to do before our baby arrives, and we decided that we are going to be honest with ourselves and start saying No to invitations if we’re just feeling stretched too thin. We’re about to experience the biggest change of our lives, one that is utterly permanent, and I feel it’s so important to remember that we are the ones who will be mostly affected by this change…meaning that we have to go as easy on ourselves as possible during this transitional phase.

I also am making a commitment to myself now not to be scared to do things with our baby. As a high strung person to begin with, I can totally see myself wanting to stay home with baby all the time, and maybe being a bit afraid to take him out because of the inconvenience or hassle. But, that is NOT the type of mother I want to be. Yes, of course, I know I’ll need to take it easy, but I also want to take our baby out places and be active with him, especially when I’m on my own during my maternity leave. I want to walk with him to visit my husband or my brother at work and still have lunch dates with my girlfriends. I want to do swimming lessons with him and not be intimidated or embarrassed if he sometimes cries in public. I want him to be a third invitee to all the amazing date nights my husband and I can still have, and when he’s old enough, I want to bring him to my favourite musical so that he can experience the wonder and intrigue I did when I first saw The Phantom of the Opera when I was a young girl.

Rather than looking at becoming parents as a loss, I’m choosing to look at it as gaining another best friend, a little nugget who will be so in awe of the world that my husband and I will get to re-experience all of our favourite places and re-live all of our favourite memories through his little eyes. That is an adventure that I think the three of us will never forget!

Janille N G

Girl with a Green Heart

Real Pregnancy Talk: The Woman’s Work

Let’s talk about how it really feels to be responsible for bringing another human into the world.

Let the biggest juggling act of my life begin!

I am now 30 weeks pregnant, which means that in 10 weeks’ time (or possibly even less), I will be meeting my little baby boy. This is something that it is very difficult to wrap my mind around. I spoke a few weeks ago about the stress and responsibility associated with having another human being inside of me (what can I eat, how should I workout, is everything going okay in there?), and I’ve also alluded to the fact that feeling my baby boy kicking and moving inside my stomach is incredibly surreal and sometimes even a tad scary. But now that my baby’s due date is fast approaching, I’ve started to have moments of overwhelming fear and nerves about what exactly it will mean for him to be here…and about how I will get him here to begin with.

At least several times a day, this feeling almost akin to vertigo comes over me when I think, even briefly, about the fact that I will have to deliver this baby. The idea of going into labour and all the unknowns associated with it is pretty terrifying to me, and although this is something it’s easy to dismiss when you’re only 12 or 20 weeks pregnant, it’s a lot harder to do that as you proceed through your third trimester. The bottom line is that this baby has to come out of my body one way or another and, in just over 2 months, I’m going to have to rely on my body to figure out the best way to bring my baby into the outside world. The fact that my body can actually do that, and that it will supposedly kick into gear and find a way to make that happen (I’ve been assured this will be the case), is utterly mind-boggling to me. As a compulsive planner, I also would love to be able to think ahead and get myself and my body ready for what’s to come, but of course, it is virtually impossible to do that. Even the best laid birth plans can go sideways.

So, I’m trying my best to find ways to, in the words of 4 wise men, “let it be”. I did go through a period of watching birth vlogs obsessively on YouTube, but my husband and parents are convinced that now’s not really the best time to continue doing that, and I have to agree with them. In this particular scenario, it seems that ignorance truly is bliss.

That all being said, if I do somehow manage to curtail these anxieties about labour, my mind then immediately progresses to the next step in my new motherhood journey: breastfeeding my baby. I fully appreciate and sympathize with the fact that many women choose not to breastfeed, and I can completely understand the physical and emotional reasons why someone might opt out of this particular activity. Personally, I’ve given it a lot of thought and talked to my husband and parents extensively, and I do want to breastfeed, with the full realization that it may not be as easy as I hope and with the promise to myself that I will not feel any guilt if I am unable to breastfeed for whatever reason. There are health benefits to breastfeeding, however, and it does establish a beautiful connection between mother and child, so I am committed to doing it for as long as I am able. That doesn’t mean I’m totally confident or relaxed about it, though. First, my body is expected to know how to push my baby out, and then, almost immediately, that same body is expected to provide sustenance for the baby? Like, hooow?!?! How on Earth do women’s bodies know how to do all of this? It is really incredible, most definitely, but it’s also a huge burden and responsibility, and like with most things about pregnancy, it’s something a man just doesn’t have to contemplate. This baby is 50% my husband’s and yet I am 100% responsible for carrying it, delivering it into the world, and (in my own case) feeding it. How does that make any sense? I don’t want to get into a rant about how it’s not really fair because obviously there’s science behind it all and it is what it is, but it just seems like a woman’s job in raising a baby is a lot more involved than a man’s is in a lot of fundamental ways. And that’s totally fine; I wanted to have a baby with my husband and I knew what I would have to undertake to do so. But, at the same time, after hours of labour (I read somewhere that a woman burns around 50,000 calories during labour, just FYI) that will no doubt be exhausting, I’m then expected to feed my baby right away and make sure he has everything he needs to start growing. Obviously my husband will be there for support and cuddles and all that good stuff…but he’s mostly going to be a spectator for the hard bits, don’t you think?

Where am I going with all of this? I truly have no idea. Maybe I just felt like ranting and getting my feelings out, no matter how incoherent. I’m not one for clichés, but honestly, this whole journey has made me acutely aware of how amazing women are. Everything we have to endure and be responsible for…it’s just mind-blowing, and while I’m not really into going on and on about #girlpower, it certainly feels like pregnancy and motherhood are experiences I’m going to have every right to be incredibly proud of for the rest of my life! A bit of pride is the very least I deserve after all this, wouldn’t you agree?

Janille N G

Girl with a Green Heart

What’s In A Name? 🌹

Happy Monday everyone!

I hope you’re all having a fabulous start to the week!

I wanted to come on here to share an exciting baby-related update. I’ve been alluding to the fact in the last few baby posts that my husband and I have had a name for our baby boy picked out for quite some time. The truth is, we came up with this name (as well as one for a baby girl, if it turned out that we were having a girl instead) a few years ago and have had it in our minds ever since as the name we would use for our baby boy. It is a name that seems very fitting to us because it combines both of our interests and is unique, uncommon and interesting in the same way that my name and my husband’s name are. We wanted to choose a name that probably wouldn’t be shared by any of our son’s classmates (fingers crossed!), but we also wanted something timeless that would transition well into his adult life.

So, without further ado, the name we have chosen for our baby boy is…

DORIAN LEE

(You may have already guessed this from the photo at the start of this post, haha!)

Now, why would we be drawn to those two particular names? you may ask. Well, as you all most likely know by this point, I am a huge fan of Victorian literature, so I knew that I wanted my son’s first or middle name to be something inspired by that era. When my husband and I were brainstorming names, I brought up names like Edward (obviously!), and even last names like Thornton or Rochester that I thought we could use as first names if we wanted. But nothing really spoke to us or seemed right, until my husband was glancing at my bookshelves and his eyes alighted onThe Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. He immediately felt drawn to the name “Dorian”, and while we certainly hope our son won’t be anything at all like Wilde’s devious and pretty evil character, we instantly fell in love with the name and started referring to our (then hypothetical) future son by it. As for the middle name “Lee”, we actually intended to use this middle name for either a boy or a girl because we thought it could fit in both cases. We came up with this middle name well before we landed on “Dorian” and it is inspired by the fact that my husband practices martial arts and has a particular affinity to the legend Bruce Lee. We weren’t overly fond of the name “Bruce” but we wanted to pay homage to this influence in my husband’s life somehow, and I was actually the one to suggest “Lee” as a nice, easy middle name. We feel it sounds really lovely with “Dorian” and we have been calling our baby boy by this name since we found out his gender a few months ago.

There you have it! One of the most important decisions you can make while having a baby came relatively easily to my husband and I, and we are so excited to meet our little Dorian Lee in just over two month’s time.

Do you have any children whose names were inspired by literature or other significant passions in your life? If you’re not a parent yet, have you chosen any baby names and what are they inspired by? I’d love to hear! 🙂

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

A Snorer & A Scorcher ~ Two Reviews of Recent Reads

☼ Fall On Your Knees by Ann-Marie MacDonald ☼

This novel really lost momentum for me around the 300-page mark. Prior to that, I was intrigued and interested enough by it, but at that point, my patience started to wane.

I initially would’ve compared this novel to ones like A Prayer for Owen Meany and Middlesex, which have always been among my favourites, but as I kept reading, I realized the main reason why I couldn’t enjoy Fall On Your Knees quite as much was because I didn’t like or feel connected to any of the characters. I don’t mean to say that you always have to like a character to like the book they are a part of, but in this particular case, I strongly dislikedall of the characters and so I found my desire to read about them faded pretty quickly. Whereas in classics like Owen Meany and Middlesex, I felt an immediate connection to Owen, Johnny Wheelwright and Cal Stephanides, in Fall On Your Knees I actually found myself hating almost everyone. James was despicable to me in so many ways, Kathleen was stuck-up and annoying, and Frances and Mercedes had almost no redeeming qualities. The one thing I did appreciate was Materia’s Lebanese heritage because, being half Lebanese myself, it was nice to be able to recognize the different foods she was cooking and some Arabic words here and there. But that wasn’t enough to make me interested in this family and I felt no sympathy for them whatsoever, even though I’m sure I was meant to feel some.

I also feel very similarly about this novel as I did after finishing Love In The Time of Cholera in that I think I would’ve appreciated it much more if I had read it when I was in university. There were undeniably a lot of profound themes and ideas at play in Fall On Your Knees, but I simply wasn’t in the mood to investigate and analyze all of them, and instead would’ve preferred a more classically entertaining plot. This has everything to do with the place I’m at right now in terms of my reading preferences, so I do feel that maybe if I had read this novel a few years ago, at the height of my studies, I might’ve been a lot more impressed by what it had to offer.

I wouldn’t say this was a terrible book by any means because it was very well written, but I grew more and more irritated with it as it went on, and today I woke up just wanting to be done with it. I think the best, most magical books will make a reader never want to stop reading them, and that unfortunately wasn’t something I experienced in this case, as disappointed as that makes me.

❥❥❥ (out of 5)

☼ Beautiful Stranger by Christina Lauren ☼

Ah, Christina Lauren at it again, delivering another absolute scorcher! Entertaining, sexy and fun, Beautiful Stranger is the quintessential beach read and perfect for these fiery summer days!

I have to say, I’ve become rather obsessed with the Beautiful Bastard series this year, and I can’t say I’m mad about it. The series has been on my radar for some time, and I especially felt the urge to delve into it last year when I fell in love with the final novel in the collection, simply titled Beautiful. But, for some reason, it took me awhile to actually get to Beautiful Bastard and kick off a proper read of the series – I am sooo glad I did though because it has to be one of the most enjoyable romance series I’ve ever encountered and I am a big fan of Christina Lauren’s style of romance writing.

Beautiful Stranger did not disappoint as the second official book in the series (not including the novella Beautiful Bitch that falls chronologically before it and is also a lot of fun), and I was already a fan of Sara from her appearances in Beautiful Bastard. I’m all for the strong, powerful, driven heroines that Christina Lauren always seems to create, and Sara is no exception to this rule as the head of Finance at Ryan Media Group. She has a good head on her shoulders (even if I was frustrated with some of her philosophies – more on this below) and I could really relate to her as a character. I also quickly became obsessed with Max Stella, the swoon-worthy Brit who acts as this novel’s male lead. Although a bit of a player in the past, Max comes across as charming and endearing and kind from the very start of the novel…I never had any doubts about him or worries for Sara, and I just felt like he was trustworthy and warm and gooey on the inside from the first moment he was introduced. He seems like an all-around genuine character, which is really refreshing for the romance genre, and I was shipping him and Sara without hesitation from the moment they locked eyes on each other.

This leads me to my one main source of frustration with this novel: the main romantic obstacle. The plot of Beautiful Stranger centres around the fact that Sara has recently moved to New York after breaking up with a politician in Chicago who was cheating on her for the entirety of their 6-year relationship (this is something that is alluded to in Beautiful Bastard). Sara is, quite understandably, torn up after this experience and she finds it really hard to trust Max, choosing instead to ask him for a more casual relationship that involves a steamy encounter once a week and nothing more. While I can appreciate Sara’s reluctance to let someone into her heart, I also found myself rolling my eyes slightly at this. I myself am not a big believer in “the rebound”. I first met my husband only 3 or 4 weeks after he had broken up with his ex-girlfriend, and so many people asked me if I was worried about being a rebound. My husband had actually sworn off dating for awhile after ending things with his ex, but for whatever reason, after seeing and chatting with me, he decided to throw that resolution out the window and ask me for my phone number. So, I probably had ample reason to be wary and suspicious, but I just wasn’t. Instead, I decided to go with the flow, see where things took us, and not deny this immediate spark that was set off between us. Now, 5 and a half years later, we are very happily married and expecting our first child, so I cannot be more grateful that my husband decided to enter into a relationship so soon after his last one, and that I myself gave him that chance. I’m not saying that someone in Sara’s position should just rush out to start seriously dating a guy after what she’s endured, but I did find it odd that Sara was so reluctant to even have dinner with Max or communicate with him throughout the week. It all seemed a bit over-the-top to me, but of course, there always has to be some kind of obstacle in these sorts of romance novels, and it didn’t take Sara and Max too long to admit to their true feelings, so I wasn’t overly put off. I was more eager for them to just get over their hang-ups already, because I knew they eventually would anyway.

All in all, Beautiful Stranger was a very pleasurable read and I am so looking forward to continuing with this series as soon as I can get my hands on the next couple books!

❥❥❥❥ (out of 5)

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart